The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Lion paid $8m for Emerson's brewery

Emerson's Brewery general manager Bob King and founder Richard Emerson. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Emerson's Brewery general manager Bob King and founder Richard Emerson. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Brewing giant Lion paid $8 million for Dunedin craft beer maker Emerson's last year, according to documents filed with the Companies Office.

At the time of the November takeover the Auckland-based company did not disclose the multi-million dollar price tag it paid for the South Island firm, which was founded in 1992, making it one of the most established and well-known craft brands in the country.

But Lion is required to file its financial statements with the Companies Office due to its foreign ownership by Japanese brewer Kirin.

The financial statements also reveal Lion's New Zealand beer, wine and spirits business had total revenue of $613.2 million in the 12 months to September 30, 2012, down from $635.1 million in the same period a year earlier.

Both periods will include sales related to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which ran from September 9 to October 23 and boosted alcohol consumption.

The company had significantly lower sales in 2010, when total revenue came in at $600.1 million.

Lion posted a profit of $67.8 million for the 2012 financial year, compared with $52.3 million in 2011 and $32 million in 2010, according to the Companies Office documents.

News of the Emerson's acquisition resulted in a storm of comment on social media websites last year, with some drinkers speculating that the craft beer maker's product quality would decline under Lion's ownership.

Some bars in Wellington also said they would stop stocking Emerson's following the sale.

Rory Glass, managing director of Lion's New Zealand operations, told the Business Herald last year that he hadn't been surprised by the reaction to the sale.

"When you play in the craft beer area you deal with lots of passionate beer lovers, which is what's nice about it."

Glass said Lion was also prepared for much speculation on the craft brand's future.

"But for us it would be nonsensical to buy a brand like Emerson's and make any changes to it," he said.

Founder Richard Emerson and his team have stayed on with the firm post-acquisition.

- NZ Herald

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